Courtyard by Marriott in Santa Barbara
Stop in and stay awhile at the freshly renovated Courtyard Santa Barbara Downtown at 1601 State St. Credit: The Cearnal Collective rendering

Have you ever considered what you wouldn’t know about Santa Barbara County if you didn’t have Noozhawk?

Local news is essential to a community, but it’s not guaranteed. Newsrooms throughout the country are laying off journalists or putting their reporting behind paywalls. Some are doing both.

Either way, a community suffers when residents have little or no access to the critical information they need to make decisions about their lives and livelihoods.

We don’t want that to happen here and, thanks to you, we’re making sure it won’t.

With two days left in 2022, we’re less than $7,000 away from reaching the $90,000 goal we set for our year-end fundraising campaign.

From all of us at Team Noozhawk, thank you.

Thank you for playing a critical role in furthering our community-focused journalism.

Thank you for ensuring we have the resources to continue to provide independent, in-depth coverage of the topics that matter to you and our community.

Thank you for your confidence in Noozhawk’s mission and vision.

In addition to supporting our nearly 24/7 professional news operation, this fundraising drive will make possible some new 2023 endeavors like:

» An exciting, innovative partnership with the Santa Barbara Zoo that we expect to announce next month

» A series on Santa Barbara County’s fentanyl epidemic

» Ongoing coverage of the county’s mental health crisis

» A deeper look at the region’s housing and development challenges and impacts

» Additional coverage of whatever is going on with downtown Santa Barbara

It’s not too late to help us make this all happen. Even a $5 contribution makes a difference.

Click here to become a member of our Hawks Club with a financial contribution today!

Thank you again for your support.

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Noozhawk had an audience of 67,109 readers this past week, according to our Google Analytics.

What follows is my own recap of the Top 5 stories you were reading. Just remember that this is my opinion column, not a news story.

Happy New Year!

1. BizHawk: Andrew Firestone’s Firm Opening Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Santa Barbara

After what seems like an interminable renovation, my friends, Andrew Firestone and Jess Parker, have opened their Courtyard Santa Barbara Downtown along with the Saint Remy restaurant inside.

The 122-room hotel at 1601 State St. was once a La Quinta Inn, but the two partners in StonePark Capital embarked on a complete overhaul designed by The Cearnal Collective.

“As Santa Barbara natives, Jess and I are thrilled to reintroduce this classic downtown hotel with timeless midcentury architecture and style,” Firestone told our Josh Molina.

The retro-inspired Saint Remy features Mediterranean coastal cuisine with a locally sourced menu and a bar, and is open from breakfast through dinner. Date nights, gatherings of friends, private parties and even business meetings are encouraged.

The hotel is managed by San Diego-based Azul Hospitality Group.

2. More Rain Coming to Santa Barbara County to Ring in New Year

Cloudy skies Wednesday evening created a colorful sunset, seen from Haskell's Beach in Goleta.
A recent sunset at Haskell’s Beach in Goleta was spectacular, but don’t expect to see one on New Year’s Eve. Credit: Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo

The last week of the year has been a soggy one in Santa Barbara County, and another storm is poised to ring in 2023 with even more rain.

As our Serena Guentz reported, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Wofford said the next storm is expected to arrive the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

Between 1 and 3 inches of rainfall is forecast for most of the county on Dec. 31, along with windy conditions that could produce gusts as high as 25 mph in Santa Barbara and 35 mph in Lompoc and Santa Maria.

New Year’s Day, however, is shaping up to be mostly dry, sunny and breezy, the weather service says.

Although more rain is in next week’s forecast, the 138th Rose Parade in Pasadena — and the Rose Bowl Game between Utah and Penn State — is likely to dodge it. The Tournament of Roses extravaganza will be held on Jan. 2 since New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday.

3. Bill Macfadyen: For Some, La Cumbre Plaza Becomes a Housing Hill to Die On

Nothing new to report on my end, but our Josh Molina is working on a follow-up story on his.

4. Conception Victim Captured Video of Deadly Dive Boat Disaster

The burned-out hull of the Santa Barbara-based Conception dive boat
Three years after the Conception dive boat disaster, the news is not any better for the victims’ heartbroken families. Credit: Ventura County Fire Department file photo

As I noted last week, I didn’t think the deadly 2019 Conception dive boat disaster could get any more horrific and heartbreaking. I was wrong.

Our Giana Magnoli reported that authorities uncovered cell phone video taken by one of the victims that confirms the 34 people trapped below deck were awake and desperately trying to escape in the minutes before they all died.

The Santa Barbara-based Conception caught fire in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2019, while anchored at Platts Harbor off Santa Cruz Island.

The 33 passengers and one crew member who had been asleep in the cramped, below-deck bunk room all perished in the disaster.

Five crew members, including captain Jerry Nehl Boylan, had been sleeping above deck on the vessel’s bridge and escaped.

According to the Los Angeles Times, federal investigators have shown the families of multiple victims cell phone video footage taken by an unidentified passenger.

The Times said the 24-second video from a badly damaged phone revealed “the increasingly desperate scene as smoke seeped below deck into the dive boat’s bunk room.”

One family member told the Times that the video — which includes audio of the fire alarm — shows “smoke coming in from some of the fans and down the stairwell” and people “walking around looking for a way to get out.”

The Times said the recording started at 3:17 a.m., three minutes after Boylan radioed out a mayday call.

Authorities had maintained that the victims had all died of smoke inhalation, even though some of them were found to have been wearing shoes.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded the disaster was preventable.

According to the NTSB report, the probable cause of the boat’s fire and sinking was the failure of the operator, Truth Aquatics of Santa Barbara, to provide effective oversight of the vessel and crew, including the failure to provide a roving patrol overnight.

Amid an array of civil lawsuits filed against numerous defendants, Boylan has pleaded not guilty to federal criminal charges of misconduct or neglect of a ship officer.

The indictment alleges the 69-year-old Santa Barbara resident “acted with a wanton or reckless disregard for human life by engaging in misconduct, gross negligence, and inattention to his duties on such vessel.”

Three 26-year-old Central Coast residents were among the dead: Kendra Chan of Oxnard, Alexandra “Allie” Kurtz of Santa Barbara and Wei Tan of Goleta.

5. Bellosguardo Foundation Starts Guided Tours for Insiders at Clark Estate

Huguette Clark estate
Don’t come any closer. Credit: Bellosguardo Foundation photo

The Clark estate, which stands austerely aloof on Santa Barbara’s most prominent waterfront blufftop, has long been the subject of local fascination.

The 23½-acre property at 1407 E. Cabrillo Blvd. was owned by eccentric copper heiress Huguette Clark, who lived to be 104 but had not left her New York City home in decades.

The 21,666-square-foot mansion next to the Santa Barbara Cemetery was said to be kept at the constant ready in case she decided to drop in for a visit.

Given all that, it’s somehow not surprising that one of the least transparent nonprofit organizations in Santa Barbara is running the place now.

The Bellosguardo Foundation, which was created at the direction of Clark’s estate upon her 2011 death, was supposed to “foster the arts,” whatever that means.

She also bequeathed to the foundation her large and valuable doll collection. Oh, and millions of dollars in cash.

So far, the foundation has hosted a few high-end weddings and private events but has otherwise been about as absentee as Clark was.

As our Giana Magnoli reported in her latest update on the Bellosguardo odyssey, the foundation recently offered a series of guided tours at $100-per-ticket — limited to people who were already on the foundation’s mailing list.

“We ask for your patience as the property is gradually opened for day-to-day tours,” the Bellosguardo Foundation’s website explains.

“A historic landmark, much of the interior furnishings are antiques. Opening for tours is a gradual process that requires a thoughtful approach to ensure the property is protected.”

According to the foundation, the City of Santa Barbara is still reviewing the foundation’s conditional-use permit application for tours and events.

City project planner Kathleen Kennedy told Giana that the Planning Commission has not yet scheduled a hearing to review the application.

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Good Reads

Don’t miss these six stories before you go:

» Santa Barbara County Shares Programs, Expansion Plans for Mental Health Care After Noozhawk Series — It’s always gratifying when our journalists’ work is recognized for making a difference. Thanks to the reporting of former staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue, as part of her 2021 Health Journalism Data Fellowship at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and managing editor Giana Magnoli, Santa Barbara County’s “crisis hub” is getting a major boost.

» Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics Plans Major Expansion on Westside — Staff writer Josh Molina checks in with the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics as it brings its Westside building proposal to the Planning Commission.

» Fire Chief Appeals County Decision to Award Ambulance Services Contract to American Medical Response — Giana has been closely following county fire Chief Mark Hartwig as he chases the county’s ambulance contract.

» Santa Barbara Airport Feels Impact of Southwest’s Mass Flight Cancellations — I’m a loyal Southwest Airlines customer and was part of the business contingent that successfully lobbied to land them here but, boy, did they hit turbulence this week. Staff writer Serena Guentz reports from the Santa Barbara Airport.

» Vandenberg Space Force Base Honor Guard Helps Kick Off Los Angeles Rams Football Game — North County editor Janene Scully shows the flag for a marquee presentation by the Vandenberg Space Force Base color guard.

» Dayne Gingrich Wins Two Pro Gold Medals and One Silver at Pickleball Nationals — For all you picklers out there, sports columnist Mark Patton has the story on Santa Barbara’s national champion pickleballer.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Dog Rescued from Harrowing Mountain Lion Attack Inside Painted Cave Home.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Color me intrigued: This British Zoologist Wants to Reinvent Color.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

Christmas comes to my Instagram feed, although my newborn grandson slept through most of it.

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Watch It

As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan (trust me, it’s not that interesting of a story), I’m conditioned to expect late-season heartbreak. So you’ll have to indulge me while I enjoy the 2022 ride for as long as it lasts.

YouTube video
(ESPN video)

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.